The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary: Revised and Expanded (2013, 2e)
The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary: Revised and Expanded [Paperback]
Jack Halpern (Editor), Y.-H. Tohsaku (Foreword) (2013, 2e; first edition was 2001)
This remarkable dictionary makes it possible for a novice like me to begin to learn Japanese Kanji.
- 3002 kanji characters (adding 772 to the contents of the first edition).
Included are all kanji prescribed by the Japanese government.
- Concise and clear education about what to look for in a kanji character.
- Indices offering the student a variety of means to find any kanji character
in this dictionary.
- Each kanji is shown with its core meaning (a concise keyword for its dominant sense),
others meanings, readings, stroke order, and usage in compounds.
To find a kanji of interest initially, use the tools in the Appendices:
- Appendix 1: "System of Kanji Indexing by Pattern"
beginning with the four kanji geometrical patterns that form the
four major divisions of the dictionary, with the first three
being divisible patterns and the fourth indivisible:
- Left-right. Character elements are placed side-by-side, separated by a space.
The difference between clear space and conceptual space is illustrated to help the student with pattern-matching.
- Up-down. Character elements are placed roughly on top of each other,
separated by a space, a horizontal line, or a "frame element".
- Enclosure. A complete exterior element ("the enclosure element")
surround the rest of the character; there may be a space between them or
they may be in physical contact. Enclosures may cover as many as all four sides
and as few as two adjacent sides.
- Solid. This is the group for patterns that do not fit any of the above patterns.
The solid kanji include those characterized with a top line, a bottom line, or a central vertical line.
This section shows you how to identify the SKIP (System of Kanji Indexing by Pattern) number of the kanji.
The three-part SKIP number begins with the number of the pattern type above, so you are well on your way quickly.
You complete the SKIP number by counting the strokes in each part of the kanji's pattern.
Recipes and hints are given for methods and speed in finding your kanji.
- Appendix 2: "How to Count Strokes"
To identify a kanji, you must count the line segments or strokes that it contains.
You need to:
- Learn to recognize the basic strokes, each being a dot or line written with one
stroke of the brush.
- Learn to recognize elements (strokes that occur together) so you can
perform a stoke count on the basis of what are contained in each element,
rather than having to arduously count each stroke.
- Memorize the stroke counts of important radicals.
- Recognize any element that you tend to miscount, and learn its correct stroke count.
- Appendix 3: "Kana and Romanization"
The hiragana and katakana syllabary are shown,
with a guide to Japanese pronunciation.
- Appendix 4: "Important Variants"
Variants (nonstandard forms) are listed, with 390 kanji, mainly found in pre-1950's literature.
- Appendix 5: "Characters Ranked by Frequency"
This second edition uses a database of the words in 860 recent books (typeset 2004-2006).
(The first edition used a newspaper-based database, and so the words in the list and their
ranking are somewhat different, especially further down the ranking, but still very useful.)
The top ten and last five are:
| ||Second edition (books)||First edition (newspapers)
|1 ||Human being ||Day; sun; Japan
|2 ||One ||One
|3 ||Day; sun; Japan ||Country
|4 ||Big; university ||Ten
|5 ||Year ||Big; university
|6 ||Go out; put out ||Meet; society
|7 ||Basis; book; this ||Human being
|8 ||Middle; in ||Year
|9 ||Child; -suffix ||Two
|10||See ||Basis; book; this
|997||Carry in hand ||Present a gift
|998||Older sister ||Sun
(equal rank with previous)
Characters in this core set are printed in red in the main dictionary.
The student is advised to focus on such characters initially.
Each character shown here is accompanied by its unique dictionary number so that it can be
At one kanji per day,
one can learn (using Appendix 5: "Characters Ranked by Frequency")
the 100 kanji used most frequently in Japanese newspapers in little more than three months;
and in three years could learn
the 1,000 kanji used most frequently.
- On-Kun Index.
If you know the sound of your kanji, you can look for it here: on (Chinese-derived) readings are
in the foreign-character-representing katakana;
kun (native Japanese) readings are in hiragana.
- Radical Index.
For those familiar with this system.
Guidance is given to help you learn.
A quick-reference radical chart groups radicals by number of strokes, from 1 to 18 strokes.
The radical index itself shows the characters formed from each of 213 radicals
(grouped first by the number of strokes in the
radical and second by the number of strokes in the rest of the character using that radical).
- Pattern Index.
This allows you to identify the character quickly from its SKIP index.
- 240 of the most commonly used 881 kanji characters (according to Japanese Ministry of Education).
- Equivalent to the first two years of characters studied in Japanese elementary schools:
- 80 1st-grade characters.
- 160 2nd-grade characters.
- For each kanji:
- Half a page of material.
- Stroke order, with pointers on possible errors and confusions.
- Basic meaning.
- Kana for Japanese pronunciations.
- Example sentences and meanings.
- Common compounds.
- Presupposes acquaintance with spoken Japanese and its rudimentary structures.
- Assumes mastery of reading in both of the
Japanese hiragana and katakana syllabaries.
- No romanization (romaji).
- Furigana given for kanji that have not been already introduced.
- Practice is required both of the physical writing with prescribed stroke orders and of memorizing the meanings,
particularly in context of phrases and sentences.
- Reinforcement by 30 new quizzes, one after approximately each group of 6 kanji.
- Progress check with 9 tests, one after approximately each 24 kanji.
- Fluency check with 3 review tests, one after approximately each 80 kanji.
Books to Help you Learn Japanese
Also see: How to Learn Japanese Kanji
Kanji are "Chinese characters" used to denote Japanese words.
Also see: How to Learn Japanese Kana